Packing a Suitcase for Armageddon

December 19, 2011

Multiple Pages
Packing a Suitcase for Armageddon

As the most tumultuous year in memory fades into wintry darkness, we face the giant black wall of 2012—The Year It’s All Supposed to End. An Indian guru prognosticates that 2012 will usher in Kali Yuga’s postmenstrual degeneracy, space cadet Terence McKenna prophesied that 2012 would take us to “Timewave Zero,” and a popular interpretation of the Maya calendar says the curtains will forever fall at 11:11AM on December 21, 2012.

The world as we know it may end in 2012, but not for any of those stupid reasons. There’s always the lurking threat of natural catastrophes such as pandemics, earthquakes, tidal waves, droughts, asteroids, or a single existence-obliterating solar flare. Then there are the disasters due to human folly such as radioactive spills, biological terrorism, and endless war.

Heck, 2012 might even bring a deep global depression caused by unsustainable currency manipulation that ends in worldwide famine and a new Dark Age. Our loving zookeepers at the IMF have warned that rising food prices may be here to stay. Others predict eternal waves of food riots. (Some suggest the Arab Spring had more to do with high bread prices than any misguided pining for Western democracy.)

“Just as they say it’s better to be judged by twelve than carried by six, it’s preferable to be harmlessly paranoid than fatally stupid.”

So if the dollar is dying and food prices are rising, comestibles may become the stablest of currencies. As the saying goes, “You can’t eat gold, silver or lead.” True, but you can’t protect your six-gallon jugs of freeze-dried textured vegetable protein against looters if you don’t have ammo. The smartest investment you could make these days would be to trade some of your excess cash for food and bullets. If guns aren’t to your taste, at least invest your money in your own basement food bank rather than in Bank of America. But tread lightly—if you start getting too prepared, the owner of the local military-surplus store might rat you out as a potential terrorist. In a recent speech on the Senate floor, Rand Paul warned:

There are laws on the books right now that characterize who might be a terrorist….Someone who has guns, someone who has ammunition that is weatherproofed, [and] someone who has more than seven days of food in their house can be considered a potential terrorist.

In other words, the feds have designated anyone who seeks to indulge their most basic survival instincts—to eat and to defend themselves from harm—as an enemy of the state. In the ancient fable of The Ant and the Grasshopper, The Ant is now a terrorist.

Yea, how low we’ve fallen, and whoa, how low we’ve yet to fall. It’s not that I ever doubted things would unravel, it’s that I really wished they wouldn’t. So I procrastinated. Smack me in the family jewels with a ping-pong paddle if I’m wrong, but the greyish-green feeling I’ve had in my stomach since late 2007 has been that we’re lurching inexorably toward chaos. All signs point toward a collapse. I don’t think the Mayans were all that prescient—if they were, they’d still be around—but 2012 may yet be the year when Everything Finally Goes Really, Really South.

Despite my extensive Boy Scout training, it occurred to me that should the worst happen—should the balloon go up, the other shoe drop, and the shit hit the fan all at once—I’ve carefully prepared for myself and my family to survive “off the grid” for an estimated three days—a week, tops. So at the moment, Swiss Family Goad is decidedly unready for any Book of Revelation-level tribulations.

I first tasted survivalist paranoia during the Cold War, what with Panic in the Year Zero, the icily terrifying nuclear-holocaust children’s instructional film Duck and Cover, and the ubiquitous family-casket weirdness of fallout shelters. I figured that sooner or later we’d have to dig a fallout shelter under the dogwood tree in our front lawn so when the Russians started bombing us, we’d lay low in our tiny subterranean mausoleum for the 100,000 years or so it would take for things to be safe again.

I’ve already seen the grid sputter a couple times. At four years old I lived through the Northeast Blackout of 1965 at my grandmother’s little Vermont shack—an experience sufficiently discomfiting to give me a nightmare about a big cartoon wolf who entered the shack to eat me while the family slept, unable to hear my screams because they were all wearing earplugs.

I also lived through 1992’s LA riots, which forever metal-stamped on my brain the idea that when civilization is collapsing, it’s best to get as far away from civilization as possible. It’s much harder to see the city burning when you’re deep in the woods.

“Survivalists” and “preppers” are stereotyped as dentally underprivileged hateballs smoking meth and dismantling rusty engines in the Ozarks, but in used-to-be jolly old England, which economists warn is only “nine meals away from anarchy,” even the gentler landed classes have started to pack their suitcases for Armageddon. One British vendor of “emergency food items” says that many of his clients are bankers, who may have more insider tips about what will happen in 2012 than your average Arkansas hilljack.

But let’s give props to the hillbillies for starting the trend. Funny how the throwbacks were ahead of the game all along. Those who were aggressively mocked as hopelessly out of touch may be the only ones who could see what was coming. The humble Amish and the rural Mormons might be more prepared for modern exigencies than any of us. Those ign’ant yokels may have been wiser than anyone suspected.

It’s nuts how dependent most of us have become on the grid. What’s even nuttier is the fact that the grid is crumbling.  In a perfect world, once-mighty civilizations would never collapse. If anyone knows where such a perfect world exists, I’ll help you build a spaceship so we can fly there together.

But for now, I’ll make like a tweaked-out squirrel desperately hoarding nuts for a long winter. I’ve yet to draw up blueprints for a lead-encased underground bunker, but I’ll start slowly: some buckets of bulk grains here, some cases of bottled water there, and if I’m feeling really frisky and self-important, maybe even an emergency seed bank with which to rebuild world agriculture once all the smoke clears.

Just as they say it’s better to be judged by twelve than carried by six, it’s preferable to be harmlessly paranoid than fatally stupid. They used to call the “preppers” crazy, but now it seems flat-out daffy not to be prepared.

I have a choice to make. By signing a single check I could either pay off last year’s taxes or buy a year’s worth of freeze-dried food for 2012. My oh my, which would yield a better return on my investment?

Few decisions in life are ever this easy.


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